Liberating the Gospel by David Smith (DLT, £12.99). The author, a former minister of Eden Chapel, Cambridge, now lectures in divinity at Aberdeen University. His theme is how to translate the message of Jesus in a “globalised world”. Just as the Gospel writers were not disconnected from the political, economic, social and cultural milieu of their time, the author argues that the message of Christ is still radical and liberating for today’s readers and that, in a post-Christian world, we have to rediscover the world-transforming power of the Gospels.
The 101 Greatest Plays by Michael Billington (Faber / Guardian Books, £10.99). The Guardian’s long-serving theatre critic Michael Billington came under-fire when his hit parade of plays was first published last year. He received, in his description, “a tsunami of abuse”, mainly due to the fact that he included only six plays by female writers. It’s now out in paperback and, with the Twitter storm long since blown out, Billington’s book can be judged for what it is, namely a well-informed and entertaining survey of Western drama.
Meditations on Mary by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (Sophia Institute Press, £10). This classic text encapsulates Catholic teaching on Our Lady. Every aspect of her earthly life is considered in a series of profound passages: they include chapters on Bethlehem, the Magnificat and the Holy Family. Bossuet, the renowned 17th-century French theologian and bishop, provides sure guidance for those who would like to ponder more deeply the mysterious glory of Mary’s divine election. For this purpose, Bossuet advises us to abridge the “many useless hours” that we devote to temporal affairs.
Bitter Freedom: Ireland in a Revolutionary World by Maurice Walsh (Faber, £9.99). There have been many books on Ireland in this centenary year but Walsh stakes new ground by looking at the conflict not merely through the narrow lens of UK / Irish issues but by placing the Easter Rising and its aftermath in the wider context of revolution that shook the world in the first two decades of the 20th century. Walsh demonstrates that the rise of totalitarianism and liberation movements in Europe had a profound effect on Ireland’s struggle; but he’s also very good on life during the Troubles.
Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds (Faber, £12.99). Reynolds’s second Charlie Yates novel plunges us straight back into mid-1950s Arkansas, a place of demobbed soldiers, corrupt lawmen and cowardly reporters. Yates is called in when a fellow newsman goes missing. Reynolds’s cool prose effortlessly brings to mind Chandler and Hammett. A stylish, elegant mystery, Black Night Falling is also an examination of guilt, cowardice and how hard it is to do the right thing. Reynolds evokes mid-century middle America with effortless panache.
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